Neighbourhood Wine – Fitzroy North – Friday 7 July 2017 – Lunch

Neighbourhood Wine

I love eating on the bar. There is a propensity for diners to automatically expect to be offered a table when dining at a restaurant. This means a lot of us are missing out on the experience of eating at the bar.

When I was 25 years old, I went around the world on my own for 10 weeks. Luckily, I was already a fan of eating alone, so meal time was not as confronting as it could have been. Back in Perth, it was almost as if the waitstaff serving me would be more uncomfortable about my dining habit than I was, often almost forcefully trying to provide reading material (which I declined).

When I got to New York City, I found an almost endless supply of restaurants featuring (on purpose) a bar for overflows and loners. I was in heaven. My most memorable experience was at Union Square Cafe. As well as the magnificent bar staff, I remember taking a photo half way through a three course meal, and my part of the bar was adorned with bread, wine, and cognac. Many times whilst dining at a bar back in Melbourne I think about those experiences. As you would know, the bar concept is now a feature of Melbourne dining.

Red wine and gnocchi

Tucked away just off Nicholson Road is Neighbourhood Wine. We don’t have a booking which is dangerous on a Friday, but we have the choice of two tables, or the long stretch of empty bar space. In sync, Catherine and I choose to sit at the bar, although we were questioning the look of the actual bar stools.

It turns out, the bar stools are very comfy, and beautifully coordinate with the look and feel of this unusual space. Every nook and cranny is filled with bottles of wine, and where not dedicated to wine there is something kitsch in its place. Even the space just outside the toilet has a few dozen bottles of wine.

Wine by the glass is generally natural, with organic featuring heavily. Both of the reds that we try are excellent. The first is a Nebbiolo that has accentuated classic flavours and body that you associate with this variety. Second is a medium bodied Cinsault from the Barossa that takes a little time to open up, eventually showing good length.

The bar person pouring our wines and generally serving us knows his wines. However, he is more bartender than my New York experiences of bar servers. He is quietly spoken and lacks energy, slightly impacting our time here.

Beef ragu croquette, mustard aioli

On the flip side, the food we order is outstanding. We begin with beef ragu croquettes and they are as good as they sound. Next we share the duck and brandy parfait. It comes out as two generous scoops on grilled sourdough. While the serve of this indulgent food could be smaller, I wasn’t complaining! We easily managed to finish it all off.

Duck and brandy parfait, pickled pine mushrooms, grilled sourdough

For our final dish we shared the pan-fried potato and ricotta gnocchi with butternut pumpkin, leeks and pine nuts. It was another good dish, and generous too. It is all too obvious when a kitchen puts out amateur gnocchi and this was certainly not the case. There is confidence in the combination with the pumpkin and pine nuts, and I would be quite happy to have this dish and a nice glass of red any day of the week.

Pan-fried potato & ricotta gnocchi, butternut pumpkin, leeks and pine nuts

We seriously enjoyed our first taste of what Neighbourhood Wine has to offer. With a thought provoking wine list, and plenty of great food options to match, there is more here than just a strong local. With some work on the rapport side with customers on the bar it would be a complete experience.

Neighbourhood Wine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Impressions from the AGT Restaurant Guide for 2018

Orana – Crab & yoghurt sorbet, codium & sea purslane

My favourite restaurant guide has been released for yet another year. When you narrow down the thousands of restaurants in Australia to a top 100, there are naturally some surprises, but in the end, every single one of those restaurants is a terrific place to have a day or night out.

Getting down to the pointy end is exciting. There are only eight restaurants in the whole of Australia that get three stars. They set themselves apart by doing the basics perfectly, and innovating in a way that is remarkable. They are not always the obvious, but equally, they are certainly not places you stumble over by accident.

Attica – Marron, Lilly Pilly and Pearl

Take Orana in Adelaide. If you were to turn up unannounced one evening and somehow get a table, you would initially be skeptical of the price tag, and then be wondering whether you are on “candid camera” as you open your mouth to allow a spoon of green ants to greet your tastebuds. What about Brae in Birregurra, near Geelong. If you were dropped off outside this homestead and farm, you might be searching for the nearest uber to take you back to civilization.

Cutler & Co – Roast chicken, house ground polenta, baby corn & miso

These are not ordinary, everyday experiences. There is a touch of discomfort. It might be the cost, the reverence, the soft gasps, or the sheer oddity of three star dining. But like most experiences, when you are out of your comfort zone, or at least on the edge of it, the memories are bigger than the moment.

Vue De Monde

When Shannon Bennett says that he wants his customers to have a comforting experience, he doesn’t mean eating meat and three veg in your tracksuit in front of the television. He means he wants the experience to be memorable for different reasons, and for his staff to do everything to make such a potentially awkward meal something to aspire to do again, and to relive in stories for the meantime.

Momofuku – beef, radish, fermented black bean

There are the unassuming places. Momofuku Seiobo looks a bit oddly placed in The Star casino and entertainment complex. The Bridge Room is almost quaint. Attica is in the suburbs. Cutler & Co sounds like a ye olde medicinal shop, placed in one of the quieter parts of Fitzroy. They were not dining destinations before the owners set up shop and created something special.

The Bridge Room – Aerated passionfruit, roasted nougatine, passionfruit ice cream, passionfruit seed powder, glass biscuit

Then there’s Quay. That is the one that stands out because it is entirely appropriate. A restaurant overlooking the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House serving food with Ferrari price tags. The achievement of Peter Gilmore keeping this restaurant at the top of its game is surely not lost when you eat at some of its neighbours.

Brae – Egg yolk, potato and jerusalem artichoke, sauce of comte and vin jaune

It is the first time I’ve been to all eight of the three star restaurants. I believe they all deserve a spot for what they have achieved, and what they are currently doing. I love the fact that really none of the top five have a view (sorry Brae, the farm is actually very serene), and I love the fact that with all of these restaurants while the basics are done very, very well; it is the food that is the reason they are so brilliant.

Well done to Australian Gourmet Traveller on a sensational list. A real statement has been made by putting Orana as number one whether the Sydney and Melbourne dominant audience likes it or not. I have never had a meal like it, and that is what separating yourself is all about.

Orana – Adelaide, City – Saturday 1 August 2015 – Dinner

Two years ago, Catherine and I were lucky enough to dine at Orana. After a wonderfully inventive, positively challenging, and incredibly delicious experience, I can definitely see why Orana has won Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year last night. A huge achievement for all of the staff, but especially for Jock Zonfrillo as owner and head chef. Great memories…

BLK's Food Blog

Crab & Yoghurt sorbet, codium & sea purslane Crab & Yoghurt sorbet, codium & sea purslane

Noma’s Executive Chef, Rene Redzepi, recently contacted his peer at Orana, Jock Zonfrillo, to discuss Jock’s take on “Australian” cuisine. It is fitting that I was reading about this on the way to Adelaide, and our eventual date with Orana. It must be quite an honour considering Orana is undoubtedly taking more than a pinch of inspiration from what Noma is doing with Nordic ingredients.

When I am going to a new restaurant I rarely read any reviews, or even look at the menu, because the less expectation, the better. However, whilst doing preliminary research, and making a booking, there is still a certain amount of information you take in, as well as when speaking to others about your future visits. At one Adelaide Hill’s winery, the owner mentioned that some people try thirty new ingredients when dining at Orana. I…

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